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Permits required as fire season begins

Submitted photo from the Marlboro, Alta. wildfire in May 2019.

Masha Scheele

Wildfire season is only a few days away and Fire Smart efforts are in the works.

Alberta’s wildfire season runs from March 1 – Oct. 31, during which fire permits are mandatory within the forest protection area.

Since March 1, 2019, there were 67 wildfires or approximately 266 burnt hectares in the Edson Forest Area (EFA) where Hinton is located.

Of the 67 wildfires, four were caused by lightning and 63 were caused by humans.

Human-caused fires made up 94 per cent of the areas wildfires last year, compared to the five-year average of 74 per cent. 

An average of 100 wildfires have occurred in the EFA per year throughout the past five years. 

“Some of the reasons the wildfire numbers were down compared to previous years attributes to the fire ban that was placed in the spring that limited recreational wildfires and the above average rainfall,” stated Caroline Charbonneau, area information coordinator of AAF.

Since human wildfires are 100 per cent preventable, the EFA could have had just four wildfires throughout the past year.

AAF is busy interviewing, hiring and training seasonal staff and other critical staff to support wildfire prevention and operations. Wildfire season preparations include opening fire towers, air tanker bases, wildfire camps for seasonal staff and other support staff such as radio dispatchers and logistics assistance.  

Charbonneau added that forest officers will be checking on snow levels and wildfire danger levels.  

AAF has various weather monitoring stations across the Forest Area to measure levels of precipitation. Through this, specialists will be able to determine the wildfire danger coming this wildfire season.

The 2004 Yellowhead Corridor and Hinton South Boundary FireSmart Community Protection Plan is also being updated as part of a greater long term plan for protecting the Yellowhead Corridor, stated Charbonneau.

She explained that the forest area around Hinton has a fire prone landscape, which, in the absence of fire, can accumulate a significant amount of burnable fuel.  

Areas with dense forest cover, low hanging branches, or an accumulation of woody debris provide an opportunity for wildfires to spread quickly. 

Treatment projects, including thinning and pruning of conifer trees, are being done near the communities of Brule and Overlander.  Government crews were also conducting some FireSmart activities near the Athabasca Tower in order to protect some critical infrastructure.

All fall and winter burns must be fully extinguished as fire permits will be mandatory for burning within the forest protection area, except for campfires.

Fire permits are necessary to help keep track of burning, smoke, and flame to avoid fire fighters being unnecessarily dispatched when they could be needed elsewhere. Charbonneau explained that with little lightning in the spring, almost all spring wildfires are human-caused and completely preventable.

“Dead and dry grass, twigs, leaves and branches provides fuel for fast-moving grassfires, making the prevention of wildfire especially important,” she stated.

Contact your local Alberta Agriculture and Forestry office to obtain your free fire permit, the number for the Edson Forest Area is 780-723-8507.